|Alcalde with his trainer and biggest fan|
Words are never really enough to describe horses properly. There’s a piece in this month’s Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder on Highclere Thoroughbred Racing in which John Warren talks about his methods at the sales for viewing and selecting yearlings. He says he likes to see them stood up for him properly so he can get a good mental snapshot of each horse. I rather like the idea of this and I know exactly what he means.
We live above ‘the shop’ here so I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the horses we are fortunate enough to own ourselves and look after and train for other people are an extension of our family. I have a clear mental image of each one – not just of the way they look but of their habits too.
When I think about Alcalde, my happiest memories of him were the times when John used to spoil him by letting him wander around the yard on his own after he’d been ridden. When he first came here he didn’t cope very well with being turned out with the others – I think he just wasn’t used to it and although he was a big horse he had quite a timid, almost apologetic nature. He enjoyed it eventually but to get him used to the routine here and knowing he was a well-behaved boy he was allowed to roam the yard (gates closed, of course) picking grass in the middle, sometimes with his friend Ex Con. He had a habit of walking about with his head on one side, almost as if he was listening for something, and occasionally would break into a few strides of trot, tossing his head, enjoying his new-found freedom.
|Alcalde and First Pressing on holiday at Colton Farm|
As ever in racing (and perhaps in life) it seems that when something or someone is taken away, something is given back. Less than 24 hours after we lost Alcalde, news came that Desiree had safely delivered her fifth foal and her first filly.
This beautiful little creature was conceived at Lanwades Stud where Alcalde was born, her sire Archipenko standing alongside Alcalde’s sire Hernando, who also died earlier this month. Every new foal is a gift and this one somehow felt even more special for timing her arrival to bring a spark of joy at such a sad time.
|Dear Florence, six days old|
The real Florence was never actually known as Florence but was always called ‘Nancy’ or ‘Nan’ by her many friends. She hated the name Florence but I loved it, and being the first of her grandchildren and very spoilt by her, I always got away with calling her by her real name as she feigned being cross with me. I was lucky to have her as a major part of my life for almost 38 years. She was the epitome of what every grandparent should be: kind and indulgent. Her final indulgence on my behalf has brought more happiness than she would have believed possible – I only wish she could be here for me to tell her that.
As plain ‘Florence’ is already taken on the list of racehorse names, our new filly will race as ‘Dear Florence’. She is the beginning of the thank-you letter I am unable to send.